For a long time now I've had a Facebook page and even engaged in some of those silly games they have that we all have came to love. I've found it an easy and enjoyable way to check on friends and family. Pictures of the kids, what's happening at work, who bought that new car or motorcycle, and yes even who's died or getting a divorce are all there and easy to find. No need to check many places or expect everyone to remember to email me everything going on as they can just post it once and it's taken care.
But as time has passed and I've came to understand how Facebook functions and how they treat my personal information I've dropped the games and made every attempt to better restrict the information that's shared. Currently I've got everything that can be restricted to just friends and I've quite mob wars and farmland as well as all the other apps and services they make available.
Some of my friends have called me crazy or paranoid to take these actions. It seems that many on Facebook fail to understand nor do they seem to care about the risks to their privacy. And until the recent expansion of Facebook into a common portal that will be everywhere I didn't really concern myself with trying to discuss this subject. It has always resulted in glassy looks and statements of "why is that a problem" from far to many any time I brought it up so I've just changed my security settings, bit my tong, and kept quiet.
But now that Facebook has decided to turn itself in to something closer to a portal than a true social network site it's time to step forward with my concerns. As Facebook is spread far and wide (Yahoo has already offered to add my Facebook connections to Yahoo mail so I can see my Facebook messages right in Yahoo mail or chat directly with anyone on Facebook through Yahoo chat.) it's going to make available far to much information to anyone who wants it. Both snoops prying and businesses wanting to turn our likes, dislikes, and interests into sales through targeted marketing will have an almost unlimited ability to access everything from our birthday and address, to our phone number and email address. Who's to say what that information is used for.
And while that' a constant problem on the web that's only a small part of what concerns me. For Facebook is by far the scariest and most secretive site that we turn our info over too. And while Google, Microsoft, and other large sites have been held somewhat accountable Facebook has somehow escaped from any real control or censure for what is outright the worst record on security of any major site.
So lets look at what scares me most and what I feel are the worst issues to be worried about:
1. Facebook has no requirement that any of these companies or individual providing apps, games, or services through Facebook give them any information as to who has access to that information, where it's stored, or even where they are located. For example the popular game Farmland is provided by a company that hasn't even given Facebook the address where they are located nor just who is behind the company. That to me is pretty scary and not acceptable. I don't care to share my data with shadow companies or people who won't come out into the light of day.
2. Facebook (like some other sites) doesn't apparently ever really remove your data or pictures from Facebook. They just make it appear to be deleted when you chose to remove it. There is an interesting article on Zidnet that discusses this issue in depth and provides proof. You can read it here (Facebook doesn't erase user data.) and see for yourself just how out of control data storage is on Facebook.
3. Facebook and it's owner seem bent on spreading far outside of a controlled network. This recent movement to allow any site, blog, service, or page on the internet to simply download a little code and insert it into their site to connect to Facebooks network is just too easy. Even worse Facebook hasn't made it clear just what controls, if any, they require of anyone using this service. With their poor record for the services, apps, and games they have now it would seem they aren't going to do better with this looser structure and open network business model.
So a word to the wise. Change your settings to be as restrictive as you can on Facebook and think long and hard just how much you will use Facebook as your portal for sharing information outside of Facebooks network. I sure won't be trusting Facebook to be a proper manager of my information.